New/Old Sci-fi book – Zero To Infinity – an extract

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Having just completed my Roy Harper book, thanks to some great editing from Andrew Percy, I am back to writing up a Sci-fi novel that I wrote in the 1970s. It exists in the form of two loosely bound typed manuscripts. They each consist of 200 pages. I am currently on page 343 so I am nearing the end with 50 pages to go.

As with all projects they start with great enthusiasm and energy and finish with exhaustion and misery. What you start off thinking was great and revolutionary becomes mundane and pathetic. I am reminded of Paul Simon’s song – ‘All my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity’. It’s a bit like that.

At times like this you have to gird your determination and press on to the end, counting each page, and trying to make each phrase work. You grind your teeth.

One of the most fascinating aspects of this exercise is being able to commune with that optimistic, romantic young naïve kid I used to be. I find so many things still ring true and are still part of my core belief while others have fallen away. It’s nice to visit though.

Back then I was a novice and it’s been quite a task altering this as I go along in order to make it work. I think I like what is coming out. I’m not sure. When I finally finish I will leave it a while, then go back and reread it. I’ll know then whether all these hundreds of hours were worth it.

Here’s what I’ve just written this afternoon:

Chapter 142 – Relaxing

‘You know,’ Makes said thoughtfully, ‘this world has been in one fucking big mess. People have fucked up big time. The whole thing stinks. I mean – just look at it! All the fucking pollution! The place teeming with trillions of people all bored out of their minds. Nature decimated.’ He shook his head. ‘When you look back at the old viddys and see how it used to be it makes your blood boil.’

‘And the fear,’ Ken added. ‘Don’t forget the fear.’

‘Or all the stupid damn wars,’ Chuck volunteered.

‘And the violence, aggression and mindless destruction,’ Coco added for good measure. ‘And don’t forget the fucking brain police!’

‘No, don’t forget the Brain Police,’ Chuck reinforced. ‘Those shits nearly cooked our arses.’

‘I think it’s the leaders’ fault,’ Chrissy opined.

They were sitting back in Make and Chrissy’s room, which was bigger than the others, feeling weary having come of shift, sipping a narcowine to unwind, and staring at the blank grey walls. Their hero status was confirmed. They were all well-known via their regular transmissions updating everyone on the solar situation. Martina had seen their potential as being the bright, young attractive people they were and harnessed that enthusiasm and tight-knit camaraderie in the broadcasting. They had the chemistry. They had moved from arch-enemy number one to part of the government propaganda machine.

Coco sipped his tube of narcowine. There was a lot of hard work that went into produced the daily broadcast. They had to gather information that was not changing much at all and somehow make it interesting. It was testament to their skills that they had been pulling it off. ‘I’m too tired to think,’ he moaned.

Apart from Chrissy they all looked jaded. All the excitement was boosting her up. She was positively sparkling and enjoying every minute.

‘I don’t know why you’re all so knackered and morose,’ she chuckled. ‘Look at you mooching around and carrying on. You wouldn’t think we’d won. Look at the difference it’s made. They are listening. They are building the fleet and everyone is walking around looking alive again. They are even smiling and looking happy on the walkways. People are alive again. Even the four Blocs are working together.’

It was true. People had come back to life.

‘But where’s it going?’ Ken asked.

‘It’ll probably last for a short while and then they’ll go back to kicking the shit out of each other,’ Coco observed.

‘Or somebody will be creaming it all off for profit,’ Chuck said cynically.

‘Or they’ll go sailing out into space,’ Make said angrily, ‘with nowhere to go until they decide to blow each other up in a new outbreak of greed or religious frenzy.’ He poured himself another shot from the servo.

‘Or they’ll find some succulent virgin planet, set up home and begin the process of shitting it up,’ Ken stated.

It seemed they were going through a bad patch. All the pent-up fear and frustration was coming out. They simply did not trust anyone.

‘Makes you wonder why we’re all bothering,’ Coco said.

‘Well that’s sure a change of attitude,’ Chrissy said crossly. ‘We put ourselves out on a limb, nearly get bumped off and you all suddenly decide that humanity is a shit-heap and not worth the effort!’

They all looked at her. It was not often that they saw Chrissy being angry with them.

‘There are lots of good things that have come out of human culture,’ she chastised them. ‘It is not all lowest common denominator stuff, not all greedy, gross and cruel. A lot of people have higher aspirations. They want love, beauty and fulfilment. That should give us hope for the future. Maybe we can settle a new world and not make the same mistakes?’

‘We always seem to appoint the same psychopathic leaders,’ Ken reminded them.

‘And if they dump a trillion of us anywhere it’ll soon be a shit-heap,’ Coco added.

Chrissy shook her head. She was disappointed with them. She had thought they would have been pleased with what had happened. Instead it seemed to have opened up a whole box of misgivings. She now felt confused and didn’t know quite what to think.

‘You see Chrissy,’ Make said, ‘You’ve got to understand that we’re all glad that it’s being taken seriously.’ He gestured round at the others. ‘It’s just that we’ve got these worries about the future; will we just be exporting the same disease to another place? It is as if getting over this first hurdle has alerted us to all the others that lie ahead. I guess we’ve all got visions of other beautiful planets getting fucked up by a human fungus that crawls out of the sewer to make a shit-heap out of paradise.’

It made her sad to look at him. They had been so happy, united and alive and now they were so down and pessimistic.

‘Don’t you have any optimism left?’ she chided them. ‘Don’t you believe in anyone anymore? Is everyone in the whole universe just greedy, power-mad and violent? Isn’t there a single person who gives you a dash of hope?’ She looked round at them with such a beseeching expression that they had to look away, abashed. ‘Surely it is not inevitable that we will simply sink back into the same mess that we’ve just crawled out of? Surely we can learn from our mistakes?’ She found Make’s eyes and appealed to him directly. ‘Isn’t it possible that the fantastic feeling that is going round the planet at the moment might just stick around?’

They locked eyes. Then Make looked away. ‘No,’ he admitted, ‘I don’t think it will.’ He seemed almost embarrassed by his admission. ‘The truth is that I don’t believe in human nature changing. Not that everyone is bad. There are good people around, but they are brought down by the others. All the ones with higher ideals, who are capable of making things beautiful are ridiculed, belittled and destroyed by the others.’ He met her eyes again. He thought he could see the beginnings of tears. ‘The same cynical leaders will rise to the top. I really don’t see any hope. I think this euphoria is transitory.’

Chrissy looked away, at a loss for words. She was breathing hard and fighting with herself. Finally she looked up and glared defiantly round at them.

‘What’s life then?’ She spat. ‘Just a waste of time? Isn’t it worth trying?’

‘I don’t know?’ Make replied with a shrug.

‘You’ve got to know!’ she shouted, with the tears now rolling down her cheeks. ‘You’ve got to believe in someone! We are the good guys! We’ve got to make it work!’

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